Posted: Wednesday, March 2, 2016 6:00 am
By: Loumarie I. Rodriguez
OXFORD — The Stop Towantic Power Coalition hosted a press conference on Monday, February 22, in front of town hall.
Power plant opponents stated they will continue to create a hostile environment for CPV Towantic, LLC.
A small crowd gathered on the town hall steps, holding signs opposing the power plant and chanting for it to go away.
Wayne McCormack and Paul Coward, both Oxford Greens residents, led the group.
Mr. McCormack said opponents are tired of hearing First Selectman George Temple say the power plant is a done deal.
He noted the current ongoing appeal to the Siting Council and the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
“They [CPV] do not have the money yet for this project,” said Mr. McCormack. “The energy sector is in the tank.”
CPV Senior Vice President Braith Kelly disagreed with Mr. McCormack’s statement. He told Voices the energy market is actually exceptional at the moment. The project is moving ahead and is currently in a normal course of the construction phase.
Mr. McCormack and Mr. Coward explained they believe the project was endorsed under false economics.
Mr. Coward said he wants Mr. Temple to look at their data and realize what he is doing to Oxford.
“We, as voters, deserve better,” said Mr. Coward. “Why does CPV want this plant? It’s for purely money. That’s all it is, just money.”
Both Mr. McCormack and Mr. Coward suggested that building more homes in Oxford Greens could increase revenue more than the power plant.
They argued there is slow growth currently in Oxford due to the power plant; there has been a dip in home sales and home values are lower.
A study from the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis at the University of Connecticut School of Business concluded, “available research does not support the contention that either the construction or completion of the power plant will have material impact on residential real estate in the surrounding area.”
The research takes into account macroeconomic variables such as level of unemployment and the economy’s general output.
The study also looks at house and neighborhood characteristics factors that include number of bathrooms or fireplaces in a house, amount of acreage, property proximity, etc.
The study’s conclusion notes the power plant is being built in an industrial zone, that also contains an industrial park and an active airport.
Homeowners within the area already have fully incorporated the impact of their proximity to industrial zone activities.
The study states negative effects occur primarily at distances below one mile; however, the power plant will be built 8,500 feet away from the closest home.
Also, new technology has emerged that disproves previous studies of potential negative impacts from fossil fuel plants.
“They [CPV opponents] are not well-grounded in reality,” Mr. Temple told Voices. “Wishing it away is not going to put it away and that’s what they are doing.”
Mr. Temple said developers build as they have buyers, which no one is doing right now. He also added he hopes when construction on the plant begins next month, the reality of the situation will sink in.
“This is a unique project for the northeast,” said Mr. Kelly. “People freely have admitted to being NIMBY [Not In My Backyard] about the project. They need it. But not in their backyards.”
Real Estate Specialist Pat Blanko told Voices that people are excited to move into Oxford.
“Oxford is a lovely community and I have seen no effect on Oxford home values so far,” said Ms. Blanko. “It’s [the power plant] in an industrial section of town.”
Mr. Temple reiterated the project is being done in the back woods and people have to know where they are going to get to it. Mr. Temple has already had a preliminary meeting with CPV.
Opponents have argued that the 1999 tax agreement does not hold up in 2016. However, both Mr. Temple and Mr. Kelly stated the agreement has been modified.
Mr. Temple said the agreement was last modified in the previous administration and, after being modified, it takes on a life of its own.
“If we had adopted the new agreement, Oxford would have received $5.1 million a year in taxes,” said Mr. Temple. “There aren’t too many towns in Connecticut that would receive that kind of money.”
Mr. Temple said the options for CPV and Oxford are to renegotiate a new agreement, leave it alone and keep the money as is or seek a declaratory judgment on the tax appeal and allow a judge decide what is fair and not fair.
“We can say with a great deal of certitude that CPV is honoring every agreement they have with the town,” said Mr. Temple. “I want to be fair with them and I want to be fair with us.
“Once again, an agreement is an agreement. It’s not one party saying this is what you are going to pay.”
Opponents cite health and pollution concerns with the power plant. Mr. Coward said last Monday that residents of Oxford Greens will be able to see plumes of smoke from the 250-foot stacks.
According to a CPV fact sheet, the 805-megawatt energy center will create electricity to power more than three quarters of a million Connecticut homes. With a combined-cycle technology, the power plant is double the efficiency of conventional generation technologies.
“We [the Stop Towantic Power Coalition] are well-represented,” said Mr. Coward. “Young parents with young children are concerned [about] not only the message we are bringing today, but also concerned for the health and their well being.”
Mr. McCormack noted parents are concerned about potential micron talcum powder particles being emitted into the air. He used the example of the Flint, Mich., water crisis that had state approval.
Mr. Kelly noted that Flint was not subjected to the same processes as CPV’s power plant. After reviewing data the issue in Flint, there is no comparison to Oxford, according to Mr. Kelly.
“This project took 16 years of re-permitting,” said Mr. Kelly. “I think this is probably the most studied power plant in history.”
Mr. Coward argued, “if the norm is 66 homes per year, it would take approximately eight years to build and sell the 520 remaining Oxford Greens and provide $6.3 million taxes per year.”
Data released by the Stop Towantic Power Coalition was provided by an Oxford Greens resident, a retired CPA, who wished to remain anonymous, according to Mr. McCormack.
Mr. Coward said the power plant is not needed because Oxford Greens can provide a lot of tax revenue.
“We are showing strength; we are showing a resolve that we are not going to let this issue go,” said Selectman Kathy Johnson. “This is a groundswell of grassroots people in town who have said consistently over the last 18 years, that we don’t want this power plant in our town.”
Ms. Johnson said she will continue to speak against the power plant. She added she will stand up against comments that are made when Mr. Temple touches on an area she believes is disingenuous.
“What a lot of people forget is we have cheerfully accepted a lot of CPV’s money over the past few years,” said Mr. Temple. “This includes a fire truck, a pump station and not just taxes.”